Late TD pass lifts Spartans past San Diego State

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Late TD pass lifts Spartans past San Diego State

Number-wise, the SJSU football team should not have been competing for a win in the fourth quarter of Saturdays game against San Diego State. The Spartans, however, outscored the Aztecs 21-10 in the fourth to put a huge road win in its cap despite being outgained by 117 yards in the game. A touchdown pass from junior David Fales to junior wide receiver Chandler Jones with 50 seconds left in the game forced the lead to change hands for the fifth time in the fourth quarter and sealed the 34-31 SJSU victory, the first in San Diego in 60 years.
I cant say enough about how hard our kids played and how hard San Diego States kids played, SJSU head coach Mike MacIntyre said following the teams thrilling fourth-quarter victory. It was one of those games when both teams fought and fought and fought. It was an exciting game to watch and Im glad we came out on top but I tip my cap to how hard San Diego State fought and how well theyre coached.The fourth quarter began with the score at 24-17 in favor of San Diego State. Then began the offensive explosion by both teams. Just more than thirty seconds into the final quarter, Fales found junior wide receiver Noel Grigsby for a 21-yard touchdown to tie the score at 24. San Diego State reclaimed the lead with a 41-yard field goal by place kicker Chance Marden but then gave it up on SJSUs next drive on a 15-yard touchdown pass by Fales, this time to a senior tight end Ryan Otten, who had a 30-yard radius around him in the end zone without an Aztec in sight. One minute and two seconds before SJSUs eventual game-winning drive commenced, San Diego State began a drive that ended with the Aztecs believing they had just put together a game-winning drive of their own. San Diego State found the end zone with a four-play, 71 yard drive that was finished by a 40-yard touchdown pass from senior Ryan Katz to junior wide receiver Colin Lockett.This left 2:24 in the game, apparently giving plenty of time for SJSU to mount its final comeback to vault its record to 3-1.We knew what we could do, Fales said about the final quarter of play that saw so many lead changes. We said there was no other option but go down there and score and we did it both times. The Spartans were hurt badly throughout the game and especially in the second half by a prolific San Diego State running game. The Aztecs outgained the Spartans on the ground 271-77. They are slippery, theres just something about them that made them hard to bring down, said senior defensive end Travis Johnson. They got a play and we kept fighting, our defense kept coming out and stopping them and thats how we win games.Fales, who has been the teams most valuable offensive player this season, was 4-of-9 passing for just 28 yards in the first half. He turned in a 17-for-22 passing performance for 232 yards in the second half and completed his last 10 passes sprinkled through two come-from-behind drives. We just didnt have any rhythm going into any our drives, Fales said about the offenses first-half performance. We went back to making it simple, getting back to basics and getting some confidence.MacIntyre said adjustments made at halftime allowed Fales to get back into the rhythm he had been looking for in the first half.We were able to pick up their pressure, that was number one, MacIntyre said. The receivers were able to run great routes and boy can they catch.Both teams took an decent amount of time to get their offenses going. Each team punted twice on their first two possessions, but SJSU came up with a break on its second punt. Junior cornerback Damon Ogurn came up with a strip of San Diego State punt returner Tim Vizzi, who fumbled the ball and turned it over to freshman defensive end Tony Popovich. SJSU capitalized on the turnover but not to its fullest potential by converting a field goal to end a drive that began on San Diego States 28 yard line. The career-long 43-yard field goal by freshman kicker Austin Lopez opened the games scoring at the 4:01 mark in the first quarter. Trying to put points on the scoreboard, San Diego State ended a 36-yard drive with a fumble by Kazee at the SJSU 47 yard line. The Spartans looked to score on its second drive in a row and looked on its way to doing so after junior Blake Jurich connected with junior Chandler Jones on a 30-yard pass play. Two plays later, however, SJSU coughed up the ball up right back to the Aztecs after a fumble by senior fullback Ina Liaina on a 3rd and 1 play. Three plays after the fumble by Liaina, San Diego State found the end zone for the first time by either team with a huge 83-yard touchdown run by Muema. He shook at least two tackles at the line and was almost tripped up but stayed on his feet and went untouched after breaking through the line of scrimmage. Needing to respond to keep up with San Diego States momentum after the long touchdown run by Muema, SJSU broke through with a show-stopper of its own. Sophomore Tyler Ervin brought the ensuing kickoff back 97 yards, cutting and shedding a few tackles before finally riding the sideline to the house. The kickoff return was the eighth-longest kickoff return in SJSU history.Great blocks formed up and I just ran, Ervin said. We worked on it in practice. I made the cut, saw it was wide open so I just took it to the house.Down by three for the second time in the game, San Diego State took over on its own 25 yard line after a touchback and began a methodical drive to give itself the lead once again. An 11-play, 75-yard drive capped by an eight-yard touchdown run by Kazee to give the Aztecs a 14-10 lead. Liaina made up for the fumble earlier by catching a one-yard touchdown pass from Fales. A field goal by Marden, the first of his career, tied the score at 17 apiece going into half time. MacIntyre said Saturday was an incredible win for the program. We have a lot of character in our program from our athletic director to our president on down to everyone who had worked with our association, he said. They all care about this place. Its a unique place and these kids are believing in it. Big deal today, a whole program win.

New Cal coach Wyking Jones ready to prove critics wrong amid changes

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AP

New Cal coach Wyking Jones ready to prove critics wrong amid changes

Even the most passionate Cal fan might struggle to name a single player on the current basketball roster. The team's top five leading scorers from last season have all departed. Ivan Rabb and Jabari Bird moved on to the NBA, Grant Mullins graduated, and both Charlie Moore and Kameron Rooks elected to transfer.

But perhaps the most significant change is on the sideline. Out is Cuonzo Martin, who agreed to a massive seven-year contract with Missouri, worth a reported $21 million. Replacing him is 44-year-old Wyking Jones, a longtime assistant coach, who spent the past two seasons as Martin's top aide in Berkeley.

Jones' promotion was met with heavy criticism from many in the media, both locally and nationally. Skeptics believe Cal settled for the cheap option, rather than the best option. But why can't both be true? There's no denying that salary played a factor in the hire - the athletic department's financial troubles have been well documented in recent years. But Jones impressed Athletic Director Mike Williams in other areas too, reportedly acing his job interview with a detailed plan for the program moving forward. And unlike the other candidates, Jones already has direct experience dealing with Cal's unique set of circumstances.

“It's not something that you can walk into and just get a really good grasp of,” Jones explained. “It's a learning curve that, if you walk into this situation for the first time, it would take you a tremendous amount of time. Knowing who to go to when you need things, who's in charge of this, who's in charge of that, just having a familiarity of how to really get things done around here.”

Jones also discovered the challenges of recruiting at a school like Cal, where not every athlete can qualify academically. While many coaches would view that as a negative, Jones chooses to embrace it.

“In my mind, that's what makes this place special,” he said. “It's the number one public institution in the world for a reason. Your recruiting pool shrinks quite a bit, but that's okay because typically what happens is if you get a kid who has a lot of discipline on and off the court, you're not going to run into troubles on the weekends when they're in the dorms. They're usually kids who have a lot of respect for the community and other students.”

From a coaching standpoint, Jones has unquestionably paid his dues in the world of college basketball. Prior to joining Cal as an assistant in 2015, he made stops at Louisville, New Mexico, Pepperdine, and Loyola Marymount, where he also played from 1991-95. Now, after nearly 15 years in collegiate coaching, Wyking Jones is a head coach.

“I think initially it's very exciting to have an opportunity to coach, have your own program at a storied program like Cal, to follow in the footsteps of some great coaches,” he said, smiling. “But now the smoke has cleared and it's time to get to work.”

That work has already begun. As previously mentioned, Jones will have to replace his top five scorers from a year ago, who accounted for nearly 56 points per game. The Bears will count on increased production from senior center Kingsley Okoroh and junior guard Don Coleman. They will also rely heavily on redshirt senior forward Marcus Lee, who sat out last season after transferring from Kentucky.

“It's an adjustment, for sure,” Jones admitted. “But you have 13 scholarships for a reason. It's just an opportunity for the guys who are still here to earn their scholarship. It's an opportunity for them to make a name for themselves and have an impact on this program.”

Under Cuonzo Martin, Cal established itself as one of the best defensive teams in the country. Last season, the Bears ranked 18th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 63.4 points per game. Jones hopes to continue that trend while also implementing a full-court pressure defense, similar to the one he coached at Louisville, which resulted in a national championship in 2013.

“It's a process,” he acknowledged. “In year one, hopefully we can be good at it. In year two, look to improve. In year three, hope to be great at it... It's a type of defense, when you're talking about pressing, it's reading all the other guys on the court. It's never scripted. It's being able to read when is the right time to go trap, when is the right time to go switch, when is the right time to bluff and stunt at a guy to slow him down. So there's a learning curve in it.”

Jones knows there will also be a learning curve for him personally as a head coach, especially with such a young and inexperienced roster. He expects his team to be overlooked and undervalued by much of the college basketball world, but that's just fine with him.

“I think a lot of people will probably guess that we won't be very good, and that's motivation right there. That's motivation for my staff, for our managers, for the support staff. It's motivation for everybody that's a part of this program to exceed those expectations. So I think that makes for an exciting season.”

Stanford star McCaffrey boosts NFL Draft stock with special teams skills

Stanford star McCaffrey boosts NFL Draft stock with special teams skills

INDIANAPOLIS -- More and more college coaches are putting their starters and even their stars on special teams as they seek to pile up every possible point in an era of pedal-to-the-metal shootouts and never-safe leads.

Fading fast are the days when superstars would catch their breath on the sideline when the kicker or punter trotted onto the field with the scrubs.

NFL teams love it.

Watching how players handle themselves as a blocker, gunner or returner provides a glimpse into a prospect's range, selflessness and versatility. It also delivers a sneak peek into how coachable he'll be, says Phil Savage, the SiriusXM NFL Radio host who spent two decades as an NFL coach, scout and executive and now oversees the Senior Bowl.

"I think because of the landscape of college football where scoring is at a premium, you've got to figure out a way to put points on the board not only on offense but through your special teams and defensively, as well," Savage says. "These coaches want to get these young players on the field as soon as possible, and a way to do that is utilize them on special teams."

These tapes provide a bonus to pro scouts.

"Now you have a vision of what that player might forecast to in the NFL as a young player and, specifically, as a rookie," Savage said.

Offensive and defensive coaches have a better idea of the types of players they're integrating into their schemes, and special teams coaches no longer get blank stares and blank canvases from the rookie class.

"Not only do you like the fact that they come in and have experience doing it, but you love the mentality if you're a coach and a decision maker that this guy isn't a diva, he's got no ego about it, he understands the team and puts team before self," says ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay.

"And he comes in with the mindset of 'What can I do to help the team and how can I contribute?' Those are the guys that seem to make it and last longer in the league because they're just willing to do different things and whatever it takes."

The prime example in this year's draft class is Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey , a "dynamic player than can do it all," according to Broncos GM John Elway.

McCaffrey gained more than 5,000 yards from scrimmage in his college career and added almost 2,000 more as a returner.

"There's just a lot of big plays open in the return game," McCaffrey says. "You see special teams have such an impact on the game today. Any time I can have the ball in my hands, I feel like I can do something dangerous, and that's really why I love the return game."

Other highly touted draft prospects who polished their resumes on special teams include Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers, LSU safety Jamal Adams, Washington wide receiver John Ross, and USC cornerback Adroee' Jackson, all of whom are projected as high selections.

McShay says "we're seeing more and more programs put an emphasis on special teams and having their key players contribute in one or more areas on special teams."

He pointed to Ohio State, where Urban Myers coaches special teams himself.

"It's a major emphasis there, and so you'll see some more guys typically lined up and contributing that are starters and stars," McShay says. "It's an honor to be on special teams."

Not a burden.

"It is not uncommon now to see people that are going to be picked in the first round having 100-plus special teams plays," suggests NFL draft consultant and former Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt.

He pointed to the University of Florida, where Gators defensive backs cover kickoffs as well as they do receivers.

"Everyone's always trying to get their best guys on the field," Brandt says.

That's a change from years past when coaches feared exposing their star players to the extra hits.

The added value benefits the players, whose multiple talents allow NFL general managers to address many needs.

"We're seeing more emphasis on it in college, and I think NFL teams love to see it because if just means you're getting a bit more for your buck," McShay says.

Top talents who bolstered their value by playing special teams:

CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY , RB, STANFORD: He shined at the combine working out with the running backs and was as impressive running routes. Asked if there was anything he couldn't do, the son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey said then: "I can't sing."

JABRILL PEPPERS , S, MICHIGAN: He worked out with safeties and linebackers at the combine, where teams talked of him playing RB and WR in addition to returning kicks. "The bottom line is I'm a ballplayer and I'm a hell of a ballplayer," Peppers said.

JOHN ROSS , WR, WASHINGTON: He caught 81 passes with 17 TDs last season but actually posted more return yards (2,069) than scrimmage yards (1,924) in his college career.

ADOREE' JACKSON , CB, USC: One of the best special teams coverage players in the NCAA, Jackson also scored eight TDs on punt and kick returns in college. His punt return averages rose from 6.0 yards to 10.5 and 15.8.

JAMAL ADAMS , S, LSU: Another star in coverage, Adams' defensive mentality extends to special teams. "I love being on the field and just playing football," said Adams, whose father, George, was a first-round pick by the Giants in 1985.

ALVIN KAMARA , RB, TENNESSEE: In a deep running back group, Kamara separates himself with his special teams acumen. "A lot of teams have been bringing up special teams," Kamara said.

DESMOND KING , CB, IOWA: He had eight interceptions as a junior and three as a senior. "I had a really good special teams season," King said. "Not being targeted as much, I still went out there and competed the best I could and was still making plays."

CHRIS WORMLEY , DE, MICHIGAN: Wormley touts playing for Jim Harbaugh as one of his attributes. "Coach Harbaugh came in and ran our program like an NFL program, like he had with the 49ers," said Wormley, who blocked three kicks his senior season.

ZAY JONES , WR, EAST CAROLINA: Like McCaffrey, he has good NFL bloodlines (son of Robert Jones, brother of Cayleb Jones). He caught 158 passes as a senior, but spent his first two seasons in college also making his mark as a returner.